The Messy Person’s Guide to Having People Over More

published Nov 20, 2019
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh

Welcome to Easy Untertaining! It’s a term we coined here at Apartment Therapy to describe those get-togethers that just kind of… come together.

As fun as it can be to have people over, it can also feel vulnerable, especially in the age of Instagram-perfect homes. “One of the most intimidating thoughts is having people come into your space and judge you,” says Melissa Maker of Clean My Space. “A lot of people don’t want to open their doors for that reason. We’re already judged so much in our lives, and it feels like there’s an even higher bar we have to hit because of social media.”

Sure, a bit of intentionality and thoughtfulness can create a fun, welcoming atmosphere for anyone who comes over, but the first thing to know is that no one—even Instagram influencers—maintain that level of perfection at all times. “The reality is, no one has a perfectly immaculate home. We’re all busy, and sometimes, things don’t get put away and cleaning jobs don’t get done,” she says.

Even if you feel like your space doesn’t measure up, remember that the people who are intimate enough to come over and hang out with you likely won’t judge you. And, honestly, your home probably isn’t as messy as you think it is. “We’re always our own worst critics, and we feel our houses are infinitely messier than they are,” says Maker.

While nobody is expecting your home to look like a page from Architectural Digest, a reasonable amount of non-stressful cleaning can make your space feel more hospitable, and take the stress out of the hosting experience.

Ready to open up your doors? Maker has a few simple suggestions for prepping your home for a gathering, without stressing too much about the nooks and crannies.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh

Practice “socially acceptable cleaning”

Be reasonable with yourself and your space, and don’t worry so much about a perfectly clean home. Remembering why you’re gathering people in the first place—to socialize—can help shift your perspective from cleaning overwhelm to simply creating a space where people can relax and have fun. “If a fraternity house is a 1 and Martha Stewart’s house is a 10, aim for a 6 or 7 on the clean scale,” Maker says. 

Only clean the areas where people will actually gather 

Now that you’ve reset your expectations, think about where your friends are going to congregate. Rather than worrying about your re-organizing your closet or folding piles of laundry in the basement, zone in on the parts of your home people will actually use and see. The chore of cleaning will not just become more do-able; you’ll also save your stamina for what really matters. “If your event is only going to happen in 400 square feet of your home, focus on those areas only,” Maker says. “That will help you harness your cleaning energy.” If there’s a cluttered room you don’t want your guests to see, don’t stress too much—just close the door, and they should get the hint.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh

Spend some time on the bathroom and kitchen

On top of the rooms you will gather in, spend a bit of time freshening up the other areas of your home that your guests will inevitably visit: the bathroom and the kitchen. Even in those rooms, don’t stress too much about deep cleaning. Hone in on high-impact jobs, like counter surfaces and floors in both spaces. For your bathroom, Maker recommends stocking up on everything your guests will need, like hand soap and a few extra rolls of toilet paper. Keep a plunger in the bathroom, too, to avoid awkward interactions. Then, take a microfiber cloth with vinegar and wipe down your faucets and sink for a just-cleaned shine. In the kitchen, clear clutter off the counter before wiping it down, and make sure there isn’t a pile of dishes in the sink. A little effort to tidy up can go a long way!

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh

Clear the clutter

Instead of stressing over the inside of your oven or your unmade bed, focus on putting away clutter throughout the areas of your home you’ll use—for example, in your living room, organize throw pillows on your couch and fold up blankets. The good news is, for any general clutter, you can just tuck things away in a drawer or closet until you feel like organizing. “Basic decluttering instantly helps lighten up the space and makes it feel cleaner,” Maker says. “It’s also easier to wipe down surfaces when there’s less going on.”

Focus on eye-level

Another rule of thumb: In the rooms you decide to straighten out, don’t spend too much time cleaning anything your guests won’t see. “Your eye generally goes right in front of your or down, so you don’t have to worry about corners, light fixtures, or anything else above eye level,” Maker says. “Instead, vacuum, sweep, and mop your floors.”

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh

Clean as you go

Sometimes, hosting comes with other chores, like food prep. If that’s the case when you’re having people over, try to clean as you go. “That way, you won’t spend the whole morning cleaning, and then make a new mess when you’re preparing the cheese tray,” Maker says. “Do your cleaning, then clean up after yourself as you go so everything is clean when your guests come over. Then, you’ll be more relaxed.”

Try to relax

If you don’t get to everything on your cleaning list, that’s okay. Try to say “no” to stress about the state of your home and focus on enjoying time with your guests, since how you’re feeling will set the tone for the gathering. “Humility and hospitality go hand and hand,” says Maker. “Don’t worry too much if something is out of place or if someone spills; just act on it quickly and move on. If you’re stressed, no one is having a good time.”